Could Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Come To The Switch?

Don’t look now, but I think Nintendo has already released its Animal Crossing title for the Switch. It just hasn’t released it on the console yet.

As part of its mobile gaming initiative, Nintendo announced Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for iOS and Android devices last month. It’s an interesting take on the AC series, and incorporates a number of exciting new elements (item crafting, explicit friendship levels) along with some sad-but-necessary ones (microtransations…). As I watched the Direct presentation, it felt like the Big N was introducing a new, fully-featured Animal Crossing entry, unlike stripped-down games like Pokémon Go and Super Mario Run. It looked like a game that could have just as easily wound up on the Switch as on smartphones.

Then a crazy thought popped into my head: What if that was Nintendo’s plan to begin with?

Cross-console games are nothing new in the industry (heck, it feels like every game ever existed is getting a Switch port these days), but Nintendo’s tendency to keep its IPs to itself has kept it from joining in on this trend. Even when the company began to branch out onto mobile devices, its offerings were simplified versions of its games (Pokémon GoSuper Mario Run, etc.) that were heavily-customized for mobile hardware. Pocket Camp, however, doesn’t really fit that description: All of the important features of Animal Crossing (resource harvesting, villager interactions, home customizations) are present and accounted for, along with item crafting and the other cool features I listed earlier. If I had to guess, I’d say this a Switch or 3DS game that got redirected when Nintendo put together its mobile strategy, and one that could easily be brought back to Nintendo hardware in the future.

Fans have been clamoring for an Animal Crossing Switch title ever since the console was announced, and porting over Pocket Camp seems like a straightforward, economical way to satisfy these demands. But what would have to change to make this a reality?

  • Map Layout: The game’s map is broken down into small sections for individual tasks (bug catching, fishing, shopping, and so on), likely to account for the resource constraints of smart devices. New Leaf, on the other hand, featured a (mostly) unified world, so for a Switch version, some of these separated areas would likely be expanded and combined.
  • Control Mapping: The Switch’s touch screen is only available in portable mode, so Pocket Camp‘s controls will need to be remapped to the Joy-Con buttons. Motion controls offer an intriguing possibility as well: Imagine swinging your arm to catch a bug with your net or cast a line with your fishing pole!
  • Price Structure: This is probably the biggest obstacle to a cross-device game. Microtransactions are a fact of life in the mobile gaming sphere, and Pocket Camp is no exception: The game is free to play, but real money can be spent to obtain crafting materials or speed up building times. Nickel-and-dime strategies like this, however, are not well-received in the traditional console market, which means the game would likely come with a $40-$60 upfront price tag. Furthermore, no one is going to pay $40-$60 for a game they can play for free on their phone, so Nintendo would have to come up with a way to induce players to invest in the game’s console version (Extra features? Larger maps? Discounted or more-prevalent Leaf Tickets?). If done right, however, this could actually be a boon for Nintendo, as they would give players the flexibility to “pay and play” however they wish.

Yes, there would inevitably be some backlash from fans who want their own dedicated version of Animal Crossing rather than some cheap mobile port, but overall I think there are enough positives here to warrant bringing Pocket Camp to the Switch in the future. Nintendo’s 2018 Switch lineup still has some room for a blockbuster title or two, and Pocket Camp looks has the potential to be the true New Leaf successor fans have been clamoring for.

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NBA 2K18: Is It Worth Buying?

Sad zombie, or Golden State Warriors coach? You decide.

As a basketball telecast simulation, NBA 2K18 is a pretty great. As an actual game…not so much.

I’ve been waiting for non-Mario sports games to return to Nintendo hardware for years now, so I jumped for joy at the news that NBA 2K18 would not only be coming to the console, but would have feature parity with its non-Nintendo counterparts. No longer would Switch players be forced to endure watered-down versions of the games they enjoy! I had to wait an extra month for a physical copy of the game (a wise decision, given the buggy state the game was originally released in), and…well, for better or worse, this thing feels more like an interactive TV broadcast than a game.

My specific thoughts are as follows:

  • What was that about the Switch’s inferior hardware? Because for my money, NBA 2K18 looks amazingly good on the console. The players, arenas, and even fans are surprisingly detailed, and while some of the faces aren’t terribly expressive (see Coach Steve Kerr above), the game hits way more often than it misses in this department.
  • I tried a few online matches, and while I was completely outclassed by my opponents, the infrastructure itself seemed solid and I only had a few isolated issues with lag.
  • If I had to describe the gameplay in one word, it would be sloooooooooow. The game strives to be a realistic simulation of an televised game, complete with halftime shows, mascot/cheerleader interludes, city skyline shots, player interviews, replays, players emoting after good and bad plays, and long, drawn-out sequences whenever the ball goes out of bounds or a player has to shoot a free throw. I can’t count how many time I’ve shouted “Just give me the @#$% ball!” at the game as I spam the A button trying to fast-forward through these animations. I understand that such sequences are part of real games, but I’m here to play a game, not watch it, and all of this extra fluff just feels like wasted time to me.
  • The game advertises a thorough set of controls that give you precise control of your player’s movement. While hardcore NBA 2K players appreciate the granularity, I’d settle for a simple “shoot” button instead of having to time my press and release. The players also feel a bit sluggish as they’re running down the court, even when holding the “sprint” button. The game has lots of control, but not the tight, responsive, Mario-esque ones I’m looking for.
  • Microtransactions don’t bother me that much, but having to give a game a lot of personal information does. Nba 2K18 demands your birthday and email account (the latter through the clunkiest interface possible) the moment you start the game, which feels really prying and unnecessary if you’re not interested in buying extra stuff. You can enjoy the game just fine without having to spend an additional cent, so demanding information in such a pushy manner makes a really bad first impression.

I realized pretty quickly that despite my fandom, I was not part of NBA 2K18‘s target audience. That’s fine, and hardcore players who enjoy watching the game and demand finicky control of their player’s movements will find a lot of good in this game. Game-centric players like myself, however, are going to wind up more frustrated by this title than they should, and given that a most sports gamers have already migrated to different consoles, NBA 2K18 doesn’t feel like a good match for the Switch’s user base.

I recommend a try-before-you-buy approach: Rent or borrow the game, hit the hardwood for a few matches, and see whether or not you enjoy the experience. Pick the game up if you do, and avoid it if you don’t.

Which Splatoon Maps Will Return For Splatoon 2?

Over three months into its run, Splatoon 2 remains a fresh and popular title even in the face of strong competition (*cough* Super Mario Odyssey *cough*). Part of this has been the game’s strategy of releasing weekly content updates, which introduce “new” weapons and multiplayer stages and keep the game from becoming stale. For the most part, however, “new” has meant “old stuff from the original game,” as many of the added weapons and a few of the new stages (Kelp Dome, Blackbelly Skatepark, etc.) are moved over to Splatoon 2 with minimal changes.

At this point, I’m assuming that every weapon from Splatoon will eventually end up in Splatoon 2 (I’m still waiting for my N-Zap ’89), but whether or not all the old maps return is another question. So far, the maps here tend to share some distinct characteristics:

  • Aside from Sturgeon Shipyard, they’re all completely static (no moving parts).
  • They tend to have multiple paths out of each spawn point to discouraging spawn camping.
  • They tend to be very wide, almost to the point that they feel square (Port Mackerel and Manta Maria being the notable exceptions).
  • Their centers tend to be open, but they also feature a lot of uneven ground to serve as minor obstacles/lookout points and make things more interesting.
Map Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality
The Reef Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Minimal
Musselforge Fitness Yes 3 Wide Open, Small Lots
Starfish Mainstage Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate
Humpback Pump Track Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Uneven
Inkblot Art Academy Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Lots
Moray Towers Yes 2 Narrow Open, Small LOTS
Port Mackerel Yes 3 Narrow Obscured, Small Minimal
Sturgeon Shipyard No 3 Narrow Open, Small Moderate
Manta Maria Yes 2 Narrow Open, Medium Lots
Kelp Dome Yes 2 Wide Open, Large Moderate
Snapper Canal Yes 3 Wide Open, Small Moderate
Blackbelly Skatepark Yes Narrow Open, Small Moderate

*This was my attempt to measure the ease of spawn camping on a map, but its actual usefulness is questionable.

Based on this criteria, can we make any inferences about what other original maps might return in the future? Let’s take a look at the stages that have not yet made it into Splatoon 2, and see how they stack up against their newer brethren:

Arowana Mall:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Narrow Open, Small Moderate Yes

The adoption of smaller maps like Port Mackerel bodes well for the return of Arowana. It’s a difficult map to spawn camp on given the presence of a side path that leads directly to the map center, and the terrain has plenty of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. I think it gets expanded with minimal rework (more than Kelp Dome, but less than Blackbelly Skatepark) and re-released in the near future.

Saltspray Rig:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Offset, Moderate Lots No

SaltSpray stands out from other Splatoon maps because of its symmetry (vertical rather than horizontal), its offset center with an obvious chokepoint, and its lack of inkable terrain on the bottom side of the map. Its crane also gives it a dynamic component (which admittedly wasn’t that useful), which is not something you see from most new maps (and none of the returning ones thus far). I just don’t think this map suits the playstyle Nintendo is looking for in Splatoon 2.

Urchin Underpass:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 2 Narrow Open, Moderate Lots Yes

After all the work that went into Urchin Underpass, I’d be surprised if this didn’t reappear in Splatoon 2. It’s not an easy map to camp on despite its lack of direct paths from spawn, and the center is fairly open with plenty of verticality to take advantage of. Just like Arowana, I think it gets widened a little bit and otherwise left alone.

Walleye Warehouse:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 1 Narrow Open, Moderate Little No

Looking back, it’s kind of crazy to realize how boring Walleye Warehouse really was. The spawn points are set fairly deep in a passageway that makes spawn camping a major concern, and the center area is mostly flat and uninteresting (it’s basically a less-exciting version of Inkblot Art Academy or Blackbelly Skatepark). I don’t think this one come back.

Bluefin Depot:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 2 Narrow Split, Moderate Moderate No

One interesting trend in Splatoon 2 is the lack of split-center maps that force players to work their way around a specific side of the map to reach the enemy (Snapper Canal is about as close as Splatoon 2 comes, and it’s not that close at all). Throw in Bluefin’s diminutive size and lack of interesting center features, and I don’t think it’s a great candidate to return.

Camp Triggerfish:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 2/3 Narrow Split, Small Moderate No

Camp Triggerfish is basically a more-extreme version of Bluefin Depot: The entire map is divided in half (with limited opportunities to cross the gap), the center is pretty small with little turf to ink, and the design is narrow despite the map’s decent size. Throw it the dynamic gates, and this looks like a no-go to me.

Flounder Heights:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Wide Open, Moderate Lots Yes

Flounder Heights feels like a perfect map to bring back from Splatoon. It’s large, it’s got lots of different vantage points and places to explore, and it’s pretty darn hard to spawn camp on. The center might need to be expanded a smidge to allow for more action there, but I think this would be a great map for Splatoon 2.

Hammerhead Bridge:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 1 Narrow Obstructed, Moderate Lots No

Forget the map details for a moment: It’s been two years since Splatoon, so shouldn’t this stupid bridge be finished by now? The spawn point is set too far from the map’s branching paths (making spawn camping a concern), the center is not open or conducive to massive battles, and its size is due to its length more than its width. I never liked this map, and with any luck I’ll never have to deal with it again.

Museum D’Alfonsino:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Open, Moderate Lots Yes

Its dynamic qualities are a strike against it, but I still think this map is a good candidate to return. It’s got the wide open design that Splatoon 2 craves, there’s some decent verticality and lots of little places to explore, and its side paths make spawn camping fairly difficult. I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing this map come back in the future.

Mahi-Mahi Resort:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate No

Mahi-Mahi takes map dynamism to the extreme, with half the center left underwater until halfway through the match. It’s got a lot of the qualities Splatoon 2 wants (wide open design, decent spawn camp difficulty), but having the map change this drastically during play is probably a (Hammerhead) bridge too far for this game. You could potentially remove the dynamism and just make the map large from the start, but that would remove some of the resort’s uniqueness and hurt its appeal to longtime fans. Unless some of these other changing maps return and signal a shift in map philosophy, I’d say this one doesn’t come back.

Piranha Pit:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 2 Wide Open, Large Moderate No

My favorite thing about Piranha Pit was that it was a big map that played small due to its spawn camp placement. However, Splatoon 2 tends to favor interaction/conflict between the teams, and having large side areas where players can disappear for sixty seconds and never see the opposition doesn’t match the game’s philosophy. Throw in the moving platforms and large center structure that divide the map, and it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for Splatoon 2. (Dear Nintendo: Please prove me wrong and bring this map back!)

Ancho-V Games:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate Yes

Despite there being no comparable feature in Splatoon 2 multiplayer to this map’s propeller lifts, I could totally see Ancho-V make a return in the future. It’s a Reef-sized map with plenty of spawn paths, and the moving platforms help to make up for the lack of terrain features in the map center. I think this makes a late-game debut similar to how it appeared in Splatoon.

Of course, Nintendo could prove me wrong and just re-release everything in the next year or so, but they seem to be shooting for a specific multiplayer experience in Splatoon 2, and not every Splatoon map can clear this bar. Still, another five maps from the original game would placate longtime fans and introduce new ones to the joys that Wii U players have known since the beginning.

Super Mario Odyssey: Is It Worth Buying?

“Where we’re going, we don’t need Winged Caps.”

After years of waiting and months of hype and teasers, Nintendo has finally released Super Mario Odyssey, the latest in its line of Mario 3D platformers. After a weekend with the game, I can confirm that this title to totally worth the asking price (and more). The game is a groundbreaking title that pushes the boundaries of what a platformer can be in the modern era, and has a nice sliding scale of challenges that can satisfy both new and old Mario players.

Let’s dive into the specifics:

  • I’ve started to worry recently about the difficulty levels of games, and how recent titles (Cuphead is a great example) skew so far towards towards the hard side that they close themselves off to new and inexperienced players. Nintendo, in contrast, has always tried to strike a balance between challenge and accessibility, and Super Mario Odyssey is a textbook example of this. The game certainly has some harder challenges that cater to veterans and completionists, but it also includes enough options (Assist Mode, some very easy-to-find Power Moons, Talkatoo and Uncle Amiibo, etc.) to allow any player to enjoy it regardless of their skill level. In-game deaths are a minor hassle with minimal state loss (although sometimes you respawn a long way from where you died), and the Action Guide guide gives people a quick way to see how to execute more-advanced maneuvers. (The random, unskippable tips offered while traveling between world are a bit much to me, but other players probably appreciate them.) In short, Super Mario Odyssey is as hard as you want it to be, and thus is appropriate for nearly ever type of gamer.

  • After the last few titles I’ve played, I think it’s time to officially put to rest the notion that the Switch can’t delivery grade-A graphics. Odyssey looks AMAZING, with environments that pop with color and detail. The frame rate has been rock-solid thus far, and the NPC design (for both friends and foes) is more inspired than usual. The music also deserves props for how well is sets the atmosphere of each area.
  • Most of the controls you know and love from past 3D Mario games have returned, and I’ve found the controls to be sufficiently tight and responsive. My only complaint here centers around the motion controls: They’re only really available (or only useful) in certain controller schemes, which makes playing Odyssey in handheld mode a bit of a pain. I found myself having to quickly shift to tabletop mode if I wanted to perform spin attacks and high jumps (along with other actions that I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers), which was more than a little awkward.
  • The big new addition here is the capture ability, which allows Mario to possess NPCs and various other objects in order to use their unique abilities. This mechanic, in a word, is awesome: By allowing Mario to fly as a Paragoomba or wreak massive havoc as a T-rex, it opens up the levels to an unimaginable level of exploration. (While the game falls short of the climb-everything openness seen in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it comes pretty darn close.) There are also a bunch of new hat-throwing attacks and abilities, which feel so natural that you’re surprised they’ve never been added to a game before. In short, the game makes controlling Mario easy and fun.
  • Nintendo seems to have a knack for including cool features that people didn’t know they needed beforehand. Who would have though dressing up Mario in different costumes or making instant memes through Snapshot Mode would be so much fun?
  • I haven’t explored the amiibo functionality that much, but what I’ve seen is pretty cool: Not only can you get hints about where to search for hidden Power Moons, but certain amiibo will also give you classic costumes to wear! (Three words: Super Luigi Odyssey.) It’s a nice touch that further justifies all the money I spent on “Nintendolls”…

In short, Super Mario Odyssey is a fun, engrossing adventure for all ages that is worth every penny of its asking price. If you like platformers, you will absolutely love this game. Furthermore, if you don’t own a Switch, it’s time to consider getting one, because the lineup (ZeldaSplatoon, Mario, etc.) is getting too good to ignore.

Pokémon Face-Off: Necrozma vs. Mew

While Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are introducing a few new Pokémon to the franchise, the real star of the upcoming releases is Necrozma, a bizarre light-stealing creature likely created by Lex Luthor (with all the light gone, he can finally defeat Superman!). Necrozma could be found randomly at Ten Carat Hill in Sun and Moon (with no explanation besides Looker’s “That’s not an Ultra Beast”), but the Ultra remakes flesh out the Pokémon’s backstory and make it the focal point of the story, dragging the player on an interdimensional journey to save Sogaleo/Lunala and thwart Necrozma’s evil plans.

As a pure Psychic-type Pokémon with a 600 stat count, a natural comparison to Necrozma is Mew, the original extra Pokémon from Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow. (While Necrozma’s antagonistic backstory is more reminiscent of Mewtwo, the latter has a signifcant stat advantage.) How might the G7 legendary hold up against its super-flexible G1 counterpart? You know the drill by now: it’s face-off time!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Stats

Statistic Necrozma Mew
HP 97 100
Attack 107 100
Defense 101 100
Spec. Attack 127 100
Spec. Defense 89 100
Speed 79 100
Total 600 600

While the type comparison is a dead heat (again, both are pure Psychic types), the stat comparison is an interesting one. Mew is best known for its moveset flexibility, but its across-the-board 100s (each a respectable score in its own right) make it a viable choice for nearly any situation. Although Necrozma can dish out a bit more pain than Mew (especially with special attacks), it comes at the cost of a noticeable Spec. Defense deficit and a major Speed disadvantage. Power is only useful if you’re fast or bulky enough to use it, so Mew walks away with the victory here.

Advantage: Mew

The Abilities

Necrozma Mew
Prism Armor Sychronize

Sychronize is a decent ability by itself, but it can be worked around it certain circumstances (for example, Fire-type Pokémon can’t be burned by it) if the opponent knows that it’s there. Prism Armor, however, reduces the power of super-effective moves against Necrozma by 25%, so opponents either have to use neutral moves or swallow the damage reduction regardless of circumstance. Throw in the fact that Necrozma’s Spec. Defense is a little shaky and makes Prism Armor all the more critical, and the armor is a clear win here.

Advantage: Necrozma

The Moves

Chesnaught Decidueye
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Prismatic Laser Psychic 160 S Psychic Psychic 90 S
Psycho Cut Psychic 70 P
Confusion Psychic 50 S
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Wring Out Normal Opp. HP S Aura Sphere Fighting 80 S
Power Gem Rock 80 S Mega Punch Normal 80 P
Night Slash Dark 70 P Ancient Power Rock 60 S
Other Notable Moves
Moonlight Restores 1/2 HP Amnesia Sharply raises Spec. Defense
Autotomize Sharply raises Speed Nasty Plot Sharply raises Spec. Attack
Charge Beam Electric 50 S Transform Become a copy of the opponent

It’s one thing to be flexible, but it’s another thing to be a “jack of all trades, master of none.” I’m actually surprised as how sparse Mew’s moveset actually is: It covers the absolute essentials (the best Psychic move, a few other things for type coverage), includes a ton of stat boosters (Nasty Plot, Amnesia, Barrier), and throws Transform on top of it all to let you copy a strong opponent. While this set makes Mew potentially viable in any situation, it also keeps it from filling any traditional roles on a Pokémon team, and thus the Pokémon is always your second choice in a scenario, but never your first one.

Necrozma’s moveset is a bit more conventional, but it’s also in the running for a Finebut award:

  • Prismatic Laser’s phenomenal cosmic power is fine, but you lose your next turn after using it.
  • Psycho Cut’s 70 power is fine, but it’s a physical move that relies on Necrozma’s lower Attack stat. (Then again, 101 Attack is no joke.)
  • Wring Out’s type coverage is fine, but its damage is variable based on the opponent’s HP.

Surprisingly, it’s the “other” moves that are most interesting here: Mew’s stat boosters give its sweeping potential, while Necrozma’s Autotomize and Moonlight/Morning Sun help cover its weaknesses. In the end, however, I’m going with Necrozma because its moveset clearly makes it the top play in certain scenarios, whereas Mew just never seems to have a place to truly shine.

Advantage: Necrozma

The TMs

Necrozma Mew
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Psychic Psychic 90 S Thunder Electric 110 S
Dark Pulse Dark 80 S Fire Blast Fire 110 S
Flash Cannon Steel 80 S Surf Water 90 S
Earthquake Ground 100 P Blizzard Ice 110 S

 

Mew can use every TM ever made, so it pretty much wins this category by default. However, it’s worth noting just how poorly Necrozma’s TM pool meshes with its stats: It gets Psychic and can pair Earthquake with Gravity for a nice combination, but its TM movepool is dominated by psychical moves, which don’t take advantage of its Spec. Attack stat. This category is a blowout win for Mew.

Advantage: Mew

 The Results

The results of this face-off hinge on a single question: Does Mew have a role besides “do whatever the rest of the team can’t do?” EV training can make it fast, bulky, or powerful, and TMs can give it whatever type coverage you want, but when it comes down to a must-win situation, Mew isn’t really the Pokémon you want to see coming out of the bullpen. In comparison, Autotomize and a few decent Psychic moves can turn Necrozma into a frightening special sweeper with just enough bulk to leave its mark on the match. I’ve got to go with the new Pokémon on the block this time.

Winner: Necrozma

 

To be fair, a jack-of-all-trades Pokémon like Mew still has value as a team filler, as it can cover holes and roles that your other five monsters can’t. There’s usually a better choice to cover whatever holes and roles you’re worried about, however, and on a well-balanced team you’re likely better off making that choice over Mew.

Nintendo’s Paid Online Service: Will It Be Worth Buying?

Nintendo caused a bit of a stir a while back when it announced that it would start charging players for access to online multiplayer services starting this fall (this was later pushed back to 2018). However, the decision seems to have gotten lost amidst all the Switch hype, to the point where even Nintendo seems to have forgotten about it (it wasn’t mentioned at all in their Direct presentation last month). Despite supposedly being less than three months away from the big rollout, we still know next to nothing about this service, with even the official site for the service featuring very few details.

With 2018 looming on the horizon, it’s time to take a hard look at whether or not Nintendo’s proposed service will be worth opening your wallet for. The company’s track record on this subject has been mixed (Splatoon connection errors are basically a meme at this point), so it’s going to take a lot of convincing to bring skeptical gamers like myself on board. Let’s begin!

  • What services will Nintendo be providing? At a basic level, any online gameplay offered by a Switch game will require a subscription to Nintendo’s paid service (thankfully, the 3DS appears to be exempt). Use of Nintendo’s smartphone app will also be gated by this paywall.

In addition, Nintendo will also give subscribers access to a “classic game selection” that they can play as much as they want for as long as their accounts are active, and there will be some special subscriber-only eShop deals as well.

  • How much will it cost? $3.99 USD for a one-month subscription, $7.99 for a three-month subscription, and $19.99 for an entire year. (For comparison, both Microsoft and Sony charge $59.99/year.)
  • Do we know anything else? Nope. Nintendo has chosen to focus on its game lineup rather than its online services, leaving us to wonder if the above perks are all we’re getting. The online
  • Will online connectivity be any more reliable than it is now? This is the million-dollar question right now. Nintendo’s track record with online gaming has been spotty over the years (Splatoon connection errors are basically a meme now), and they’ve said and/or done nothing this year to inspire any confidence that things will be different this time. If Nintendo is going to charge people to play online, the people aren’t going to stand for the status quo, because only paying $20/year isn’t terribly comforting when you can’t stay in a Turf War for more than thirty seconds.

With all that said, let’s get to the big question: Will this service be worth paying for? The answer depends on two other question:

  • What games do you play? The Switch has no shortage of non-online games for you to enjoy, from the big (Zelda: Breath Of The WildSuper Mario Odyssey) to the small (SnipperclipsStardew Valley) to whatever Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle qualifies as. If you can get by on those games alone, paying for online isn’t worth it.

But let’s say you’re hooked on games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2. What do you do then? Well…

  • Do you have a Wii U handy? Most of the Switch games that rely on online connectivity are either Wii U ports (MK8D, Pokkén Tournament) or Wii U expansions (Splatoon 2). Aside from ARMS (which still feels like a failed launch to me), you can already play these sorts of games on a different console, and do so without paying for online services. If you can do that, paying for online isn’t worth it.

If you don’t have a Wii U and you want to play these games, however, you’re probably going to have to pony up for the online service. (In particular, Splatoon 2 is basically a $60 paperweight without a network connection.) It’s a bit of a gamble given Nintendo’s history, but hey, at least things can’t get much worse.

To be honest, however, I’m not sure we’ll have to make this decision anytime soon (and perhaps not at all). With so little information about the paid service coming out, I have a distinct feeling that it’s not ready for primetime yet, and that Nintendo will further delay its implementation and extend its free trial into 2018. The Switch’s online app has no purpose outside of the Splatoon 2 app (and even that isn’t all that interesting) and its voice chat functionality is beyond convoluted (why would you choose this junk over Skype?). Classic games are nice, sure, but I’ve already played most of the old games I’m interested in, so tossing them into an online subscription isn’t much of an enticement. It just seems like Nintendo decided to charge for its online services just because they could, and haven’t done a great job at justifying it beyond that.

I imagine that eventually Nintendo will do just enough to make paying for online gaming worthwhile, but they’re first going to have to convince me that they can manage online gaming in the first place. Until then, I’ll be happily capturing dinosaurs and Pokémon without a subscription.

What Games Should Nintendo Remake Next?

Mario Maker’s coming back someday, but should it be SMM DX or SMM 2?

Despite all the excitement over Nintendo’s future with its Switch console and its highly-aniticipated titles (Zelda: Breath Of The WildSuper Mario Odyssey), Nintendo’s been trading surprisingly heavy on its past in 2017. I mentioned a few of these titles in my recent Mario & Luigi post (Pokkén Tournament DX, Metroid: Samus Returns, the SNES Classic, and Superstar Saga itself), but the remake/rerelease trend becomes more pronounced as you expand the timeline: We got YoshiFire Emblem, and Mario Kart remakes/expansions earlier this year (not to mention the Arcade Archive series, and the upcoming Pokémon Ultra Sun/Moon), on top of the NES Classic and Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS from late 2016. As much flak as the Big N takes for trading on its past, there’s no denying that there’s a robust market for it.

So what franchises should Nintendo mine next for a quick buck? The picking are a bit slim given the company’s current release schedule (new Yoshi, Metroid, and Kirby titles are coming, and it’s probably too soon for another Zelda or Mario game), but here are some potential candidates:

Mario Maker

  • Last Release: Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS (3DS, 2016)
  • Should A Game Be Re-Released? Yes
  • Which Game? Super Mario Maker (Wii U, 2015)

This game has already been ported once, but I think it’s a prime candidate for a second port for several reasons:

  • It’s a Wii U game, so a lot of players didn’t experience it.
  • It tapped into the thriving kaizo/ROM-hack community and has a huge fanbase.
  • I don’t see an obvious way to change the game enough to warrant a true sequel. While there are certainly important features to add (Slopes? Vertical levels? A Mario Bros. 2 tileset?), there isn’t a feature on the level of Splatoon 2‘s Salmon Run that would make this a truly new game.

Animal Crossing

  • Last Release: Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival (Wii U, 2015)
  • Should A Game Be Re-Released? No

Games in the main Animal Crossing series are similar enough that once you play a newer version, you really don’t have a reason to revisit an older one. (In contrast, recent spin-off titles make you wonder if they should have released at all…) Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the gold standard right now, and given that it’s a 3DS title, Nintendo is probably better off developing an entirely new game that takes advantage of the Switch’s power.

F-Zero

  • Last Release: F-Zero Climax (GBA, 2004)
  • Should A Game Be Re-Released? Yes
  • Which Game? F-Zero GX (GameCube, 2003)

F-Zero has been gone for so long that outside of Captain Falcon and a few Mario Kart tracks, nobody remembers anything about it. If there’s a game out there that deserves the treatment Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga got, it’s this one: Slap a new coat of paint on a game that already looked pretty decent on the GameCube, include a comprehensive list of characters and vehicles, and unleash it on the gaming public. Who says the Switch needs a dedicated Mario Kart game?

Super Smash Bros.

  • Last Release: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U, 2014)
  • Should A Game Be Re-Released? No

This game almost falls into the same category as Super Mario Maker (how exactly could you make this better?), but that’s never stopped Nintendo from releasing new versions of this game before. Sure, a Super Smash Bros. Melee re-release would certainly sell well enough, but I have a feeling this fandom won’t put up with a simple re-release. I think Nintendo needs to go the Splatoon 2 route with this franchise: Pair Smash Bros. Wii U‘s multiplayer action with Smash Bros. Brawl‘s single-player mode, inject some fresh new characters (Inklings? ARMS fighters? Yooka & Laylee?) and stages, maybe come up with an interesting new online mode, and call it a day.

Paper Mario

  • Last Release: Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U, 2016)
  • Should A Game Be Re-Released? Yes
  • Which Game? Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GameCube, 2004)

This one feels like a no-brainer, especially in the wake of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions. The recent Paper Mario games have gotten mixed reviews (for what it’s worth, I really enjoyed Color Splash), mostly because they’ve strayed from the formula that made Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door so successful.  PM: TTYD is the one that people keep pointing to as the pinnacle of the series, so why not capitalize on this and merge TTYD‘s story with Color Splash‘s stunning visuals? I still don’t see the upside of the Superstar Saga remake, but I could totally see it here.

Speaking of no-brainers…

Pokémon

  • Last Release: Pokémon Sun/Moon (3DS, 2016)
  • Should A Game Be Re-Released? Yes
  • Which Game? Pokémon Diamond/Pearl (DS, 2007)

…Do I really need to say anything more? Pokémon prints money like few other series, and speculation about Diamond and Pearl remakes started the moment Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire hit store shelves. Toss in some expanded post-game story content, and this thing would be a perfect 2018 title for the 3DS (and help tide people over until the eventual Switch title).

Star Fox

  • Last Release: Star Fox 2 (SNES Classic, 2017)
  • Should A Game Be Re-Released? No

Let’s be real: Star Fox Zero pretty much destroyed any chance of a future reboot. If any series needs a new game on the level of Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey, it’s this one. (Say what you want about Metroid, but at least it can get by with a game like Samus Returns.)

In short, Nintendo’s storied past can really help shore up its future, but only if it’s meted out judiciously. As long as fresh blockbuster titles are leading the way, re-releases are a good way to fill in the release schedule and squeeze a bit more revenue out of gamers’ nostalgia.